It Never Leaves the Stove Top

Hands down many people will agree that aside from a roaring campfire, one of the best things about camping is cooking in the great outdoors. Now, if any of you out there are purist lightweight style backpacker campers, this post may irk you slightly as it has NOTHING to do with cutting weight out of your back. And listen, I hear you. I understand as I myself for THE LONGEST TIME fell into this range of camping style and thusly, all of my meals consisted solely of what I could make from boiling water or tiny airtight packets of tuna and carry on my back. However, in my later years and move to the great Pacific Northwest, I have re-discovered the joys of car camping. The wonders of being able to take everything you need - and probably a few things you don't - and live in the outdoors in perfect comfort! And my friends... this is where the irreplaceable cast iron skillet comes into play.

What would never cross your mind to throw in a backpack the cast iron skillet without hesitation will find its way into your car for camping and can be used for pretty much any dish you'd make around the campfire. From cooking up bacon in the morning to making delectable quesadillas at night, there is not one basic dish that can't be cooked up in a cast iron.

Sadly, in many households across the states, the cast iron skillet has been shoved to the back of many people's cookware collection over the past thirty some years. Granted, in some households it never leaves the stove top... but many people have switched to stick free easy cleaning teflon. But you know, that teflon is gonna ware out over time and the one dish that can take a licking and keep on ticking and be passed down to your kids... is the good old cast iron skillet.

So, to continue on an Classic Americanna theme, I'm going to share with you a small company called Borough Furnace (Murfreesboro, TN) who are venturing to combine modern design with a classic american product and... to make it out of upcycled materials.

These two cousins that make up Borough Furnace, shared a mutual love of industrial design and environmental responsibility. They wanted to get into business doing something that combined those passions... so, they started gathering scrap metal, things from junkyards, old furnaces, car parts, then melted them down to create a high quality classically designed product. Not only are all the materials completely recycled in their dual handled skillets, but the whole process takes place in their backyard! In fact, the furnace that they use for the process was constructed from recycled steel dairy cans and about 500lbs of hand mixed sand and clay.

Recently, Borough Furnace were showcased at the A+: "The Young Designers Platform" at the Accent on Design portion of the International Gift Fair in New York City. The duo walked away from the exhibition with the garnering of the Bloggers Choice Award by Jen Lockwood, a judge and blogger from The Daily Grommet. (You can catch the interview here). As well, they recently were featured on, which is always a sign of good things to come.

On a side note: My favorite meal to be cooked in a cast iron in the open air is the dish that I won Outstanding of the Day for in the 1995 Ohio State Fair Outdoor Cookery 4-H Competition (which... for those of you not familiar with 4-H, is like winning a huge ass stage race in cycling) is calico beans. If you like bacon, beef and beans this dish is for you! (Just a warning though, you may want a fair amount of ventilation in your tent for the post dinner aftermath.)

Calico Beans (as written in the Ohio State University Extension Outdoor Cookery 4-H Cookbook)


1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, undrained
1 (16 ounce) can baked beans with pork
1 (15 ounce) can butter beans, undrained
1/2 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 pound lean ground beef
4 ounces bacon, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, fry the ground beef, bacon and onion together until ground beef is no longer pink. Drain fat.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the kidney beans, baked beans with pork and butter beans. Stir in the ketchup, white vinegar, dry mustard, brown sugar and cook beef mixture. Mix thoroughly, adding salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pour the bean and meat mixture into a 9x13 inch baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

(the Ohio State Fair, not every state is lucky enough to have an even amount of open letters to walk through)

Have an old cast iron laying around you need to re-season? Check here.


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